One world, one woman
- 03 March, 2000 12:20
"I've been everywhere in the world and where I haven't been I intend to go," declared Liesl Frankenfeld when asked what it is she is passionate about. This resolute declaration of the intention to go to the farthest lands should come as no surprise, not the least because, like most 28 year olds, Frankenfeld admits to having the travel bug. Yet her words reveal much more.
Glance at her resume and you will discover that, in a very special way, the above statement could easily translate into Frankenfeld's career motto. For starters, she's travelled far - first across Africa and then all the way to Australia to become the manager of the ACCPAC Division of Sydney-based distributor 1World Systems Australia. What's special about it is that, in her career, Frankenfeld has so far travelled only with one partner - the maker of financial software ACCPAC International.
"My career has been connected with ACCPAC from the very beginning, I kind of haven't really done anything else, " Frankenfeld reflects. "But I don't really wish to be somewhere else."
Frankenfeld's words resonate with that distinctive determination which undoubtedly enabled her to convince value-added resellers (VARs) across Africa to try their luck with ACCPAC solutions and directly contribute to the carving out of some 60 per cent market share for the company on the African continent. But let us descend from the peaks of success to go back to the beginning of her ACCPAC journey.
Frankenfeld's initiation into the world of information technology happened in an almost stereotypical manner - by accident. A marketing graduate with a major in copy writing, she started out by writing copy for ACCPAC manuals and training materials. "Well, yes, it was one of those 'I'm a graduate - I need a job fast' things," she laughs. "But it worked out and I stayed there for a while before moving to the channel division of LA Technology [ACCPAC's South African distributor]."
It was to Frankenfeld's credit that, together with ACCPAC and LA Technology, she used her "Windows of opportunity" to inspire now almost legendary achievements in the development of ACCPAC's African channels with which she is regularly credited.
"At the time, the accounting software market was a very DOS-dominated space and I worked on the market acceptance of Windows through the development of our Windows channel," she explained. "We ended up being the region with the highest ACCPAC market share in the world."
Frankenfeld's success was built on a simple philosophy that a distributor has to add value to its channel partners' businesses. "As a distributor, we're only going to be as successful as our channels are, so we need to make sure that our channel partners are focused and have a solid business strategy," she asserts. In practical terms, this means that, apart from handling marketing and account management, Frankenfeld takes a hands-on approach to "channel care" by working with channel partners on developing their business plans and generally trying to provide the highest level of support and services.
As an old Latin adage would have it, though, the road to the stars isn't without thorns.
"Although we have a boxed package, which is generally easier to sell, [the package] is a hard proposition for the value-add channel," Frankenfeld offers referring to the problem that remains one of the main stumbling blocks people like herself have to face in managing ACCPAC's market growth.
"We've got a very bad perception problem in Australia where resellers think of ACCPAC as targeting small business only, whereas we're actually in direct competition with the likes of Great Plains," she explains.
But Frankenfeld has never been afraid of tackling channel issues head on, which is one of the key reasons she was selected to head the Australian ACCPAC distribution unit at 1World when ACCPAC International decided early last year to change its distribution strategy down under.
In the 12 months since she was appointed the manager of the ACCPAC divison, Frankenfeld and her seven-people team, supported by Kim Olson, account manager for ACCPAC International in Australia and New Zealand, are reported to have grown the ACCPAC market in Australia by 55 per cent.
Modesty being her personal policy, Frankenfeld predictably chooses to downplay both the mentioned results (she says they achieved "only" a 45 per cent dollar value growth) and her reputation when describing the way she was sourced for the job.
"The ACCPAC community is quite small, so we do quite a bit of conferencing and know each other well," Frankenfeld says. "It happened so that I was at an Australian conference when the decision to change the distribution model in Australia was made and people from Brocker Technologies - who own 1World - came to speak to me about heading this new unit, because they needed someone with the product, market and especially the channel knowledge."
Frankenfeld cannot decide whether she took the role because for her "thriving on challenge" is not simply a cliché, but a way of life, or because she fell in love with Sydney ("I thought Sydney was an amaaaaaaazing place," she says) with the same intensity that characterises more "rational" activities in her life.
Whatever the case, neither Liesl nor the 77 members of the Australian ACCPAC channel seem to have any reason to regret the decision.
"Our relationship is quite interesting. We train them and look after them and they help us with other things such as joint advertising and marketing, so it's quite a nice way of working," she explains. "But we still have a lot of work to do here - grow the channel, grow the product, grow the market - these are our priorities at the moment. We just want to keep growing and keep being the best at what we do."